First monument to a vanished glacier

"Letter to the Future" commemorates Iceland's first officially "dead" glacier

That's what he looked like: the Okjökull glacier on Iceland has officially not been a glacier since 2014. He has melted down so much that only a dead ice remains. © Dominic Boyer / Cymene Howe
Read out

Memorial to posterity: The first commemorative plaque for a vanished glacier will soon be unveiled on Iceland. It is reminiscent of the Okjökull glacier, which was the first ice stream in Iceland to officially lose its status as a glacier - the warming caused it to defrost too far. The commemorative plaque carries a "letter to the future" stating, "We know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you will know if we did it. "

Climate change causes glaciers to thaw worldwide - not only in the Alps, the Himalayas and other mountain regions, but also in the polar regions, Greenland and Iceland. Most of the ice flows have shrunk so far, but researchers predict that many glaciers may soon be completely gone.

Only a dead ice rest

In Iceland, the time has already come: In 2014, the Okjökull glacier, which was not that large anyway, had defused so far that scientists had officially revoked it as a glacier. The ice stream, also called "Ok", has finally disappeared and lost. From the glacier on the summit of Ok Mountain there is only a small remnant of ice left - something that glaciologists call dead ice.

The commemorative plaque for Okjökull and its inscriptions. © Rice University

"Ok is the first named icelandic glacier that has melted because we humans have changed the atmosphere of our planet, " says Dominic Boyer of Rice University. "Its fate will be shared by all the glaciers of Iceland, if we do not act now and radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions." There are still around 400 glaciers in Iceland, but according to estimates of climatologists could already 2100 the H Half of them have disappeared, to 2200 even all if the climate protection does not work.

"Letter to the future"

The fate of the disappeared Okj kull will soon be remembered by a commemorative plaque on the 18th of August it will be revealed on Ok Mountain. "This will be the world's first monument reminiscent of a glacier lost to climate change, " says Boyer's colleague Cymene Howe. "By commemorating its end, we hope to draw attention to what is lost by the disappearance of the glaciers of our earth." Ad

On the board read: "Letter to the future. Ok is the first glacier on Iceland that loses its status as a glacier. For the next 200 years, all of our glaciers could follow him. This memorial is meant to testify that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it. "These words were written by the Andalusian writer Andri Snaer Magnason.

Memorial for the people living today

But even if the inscription on the memorial plaque is addressed to the coming generations as a reminder, the words should above all serve those living today: "One of our Icelandic colleagues once said very wise: 'Denkm They are not for the dead, they are for the living, "says Howe. "With this memorial, we want to underline that it is up to us, the living, to respond to the rapid loss of glaciers and the effects of climate change."

Howe and Boyer shot the documentary "Not Ok" at the end of Okj kull, telling the story of this glacier and its disappearance.

Source: Rice University

- Nadja Podbregar